Over the last 2 years, I’ve had the privilege of attending Optometry’s Meeting (OM) in Chicago and San Diego, Vision Expo East (VEE) in New York, Vision Expo West (VEW) in Vegas, the South Eastern Congress of Optometry (SECO) in Atlanta and the Congressional Advocacy Conference (CAC) in Washington, D.C. A lot of students don’t give much thought or are really aware of the opportunity to attend these hugely beneficial conferences. Here’s my take on why you should attend a few conferences as an optometry student, and how each one is different.
How these conferences work:
You can usually find a decent deal on registration and hotel as long as you start planning early. The centerpiece of each conference is usually the exhibit hall and features frame companies, equipment dealers, websites, specialty products, and more. Throughout the show, there is a wide variety of continuing education courses–FREE for students–on topics such as clinical advice to business and marketing. There are also various events and parties to attend, some educational with a complimentary lunch/dinner and networking included.
This is the meeting that is most synonymous with students, which is what sets it apart from the others. It’s held in a different city each year. It has events such as the popular Student Bowl, and some great parties at night. It also has many student-geared programs and CE’s. That being said, the size and variety of the exhibit hall is on the small side. I feel the attendance of optometrists (and your opportunity for casual conversations and encounters walking around the exhibit hall floor, which is important for making connections and networking) is low compared to other conferences. I would still try to attend this conference every year, as it is a very fun trip and a chance to meet students from other schools and bond more with your classmates. As a side note: don’t underestimate the importance of meeting other students. You get a different view on optometry school and they may have connections or plans once they graduate, and could be looking for someone to join them.
And so another year at ICO begins. This time, however, I have a new outlook as a second year.
First years are in a frenzy, second years are rejoicing in their reunion after a long, well-deserved summer break, third years are just busy, and fourth years are in the midst of externship rotations. The first weeks at ICO are unlike anything else–a whirlwind to some and a huge awaiting obstacle to others. But, there is still excitement in the air.
I was part of the ICO orientation team this year. Working closely with 20 of my classmates reminded me of those first day jitters, and in feeling so, I wanted to be there and help those 164 brand new faces. Orientation at ICO is unparalleled in the depths that we go to not only welcome our new colleagues, but also make the transition to professional school as smooth as humanly possible. We jam packed four long days with information, activities, seminars, speakers, Chicago delights (delicious pizza), and most importantly new friends. Nothing was left to chance. We found it not only important to stress what academic and student life at ICO is like, but also what a Chicago lifestyle was like. What pray tell, does that entail? Our first years set sail on an architecture tour in the Chicago River sightseeing everything from the magnificent Navy Pier to the captivating Chicago skyline. Our orientation team also pioneered the way to several different cuisines–from succulent Italian to authentic Greek–in neighborhoods across the city. Truth be told, this is one of the best things about Chicago – that is, the pure culture that adorns each locality, and the delicious food that follows it.
Where am I going to study? Should I take notes on my computer? Which desk drawer should I put my highlighters in? Do I workout in the morning or at night? OH GOSH, WHICH SEAT DO I WANT?
It didn’t occur to me when I decided to go to ICO last fall that I would have to “get the hang of it.” When uprooting your life to come live in a new city, take new classes at a new school with new professors, there is certainly a lot to think about. From the second I moved into the Residential Complex last week, I have been making mini decisions that will effect the next year of my life.
Home Sweet Home. I am definitely a nester by nature. I unpacked and set up my room as quickly as I could because I couldn’t wait for it to feel more homey. While unpacking I had to think about things like finding a place for school supplies, underwear, extra towels and picture frames. It’s not like there’s a lack of storage space in the RC, I just had to ask myself, “Am I sure this is where I want to put this for the next nine months?” I mean, I know I can always change it’s spot, but I guess I like being dramatic.
Seat Envy. Speaking of dramatic, is there a harder decision than picking out your lecture seat? There are pros and cons to being upfront and way back in the back. I felt like the seat you pick on the first day says something about you, both to your fellow classmates and to your professor. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say yet, so I chose a seat in the middle. (Close enough to pay attention but far enough away that I can still text…)
I fell in love with Chicago years before I knew I was going to attend ICO. As the big move to Chicago nears, I am getting excited for the food. Chicago is renowned for their famous foods, such as Chicago-style hot dogs and Chicago-style pizzas. And there are three reasons my stomach grumbles in excitement about my new adventure in Chicago that I would like to share.
1. When you’re in Chicago, you’d better try some authentic Chicago-style pizza. And I think they mastered it at Pizzeria Uno. While they have other things on their menu, such as burgers and mouth-watering desserts, people go there for the deep-dish pizza. At least that is what makes my family return to the little restaurant on 29 E. Ohio. The restaurant is smaller than its franchise locations. However, it is a must. The serving sizes are huge and you can easily share a small pizza with three people.
2. Topo Gigio has some of the best pasta I’ve ever had. My absolute favorite dish is Tortellini alla Panna, which is pasta with cream sauce, mushrooms, pancetta, sweet peas and Parmigianino reggiano cheese. This dish actually makes my mouth water just thinking about it (which never happens when I think of pasta). It is found in the heart of historic Old Town at 1516 N Wells Street. It’s also a perfect place to eat before you see a show at Second City. Make sure to check out all the photos and autographs of celebrities that have eaten there before you.
Here’s my experience with financial aid thus far: you click a few buttons, give a little personal information and voila…they give you money. Easiest $55k anyone has ever made. However, as the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
I’m maybe the dumbest person I know financially. I didn’t understand interest until the age of 20, and I’m still shaky on what the term “tax deductible” means. The most experience I have with bills is setting up an automatic online payment for my apartment rent. In college, I lost my debit card probably five times and often got letters from the bank that did not say “Great job with your spending this month!” In fact, usually just the opposite.
So, the question is, why on earth would the government give any amount of money to a person like me? The answer is kind of flattering. They think I’m an investment! Having more eye docs all over the country is worth it to them to give serious coin to a bunch of 20-somethings. If our education is a new house, FAFSA is our mortgage.
The details of federal aid are much more daunting. Maybe not to everyone, but certainly to me. I’ve vowed to be done burying my head in the sand; from here on out I’m going to TRY to understand my financial aid better because I don’t want trouble down the road. The other day my mom was helping me break down the components of my reward and I could not understand the concept of work study. A solid twenty minutes and a lame metaphor later, I finally got it. (Turns out it’s not money in your pocket for shopping, as I had originally thought.)